How to be a Democrat, according to Republicans

Beware the advice offered by your literal opponent.

It is one of the oldest truisms in the whole human story that it is not a great idea to take advice from your enemy. That’s why wolves put on sheeps’ clothing. It’s why frogs shouldn’t let scorpions hitch rides across rivers. You’re going to get bitten or stung, at best. However, for many American liberal politicians, it seems that listening to your natural adversary remains an irresistible temptation.

Republicans have always loved to lecture liberals on what they should be doing, sometimes adopting the pretense of telling them how to win elections. This always takes the form of encouraging them to be more like Republicans. To an easy mark, the offer of advice might seem to display a lack of self-interest that makes it trustworthy. But in the world of American politics, it’s a deviously effective strategy. If Republicans can convince Democrats to dilute their identity and abandon their principles, there are two possible results. The first is that they will appear so enfeebled and unreliable to the electorate that they will inevitably lose. The second is that even if they win, they will have become Republicans in the process. Like the scorpion sinking into the river with the frog, Republicans know that this defeat is also in some sense a victory.

Yet Democrats fall into this trap over and over again, a tendency that has risen precipitously with the emergence of the so-called #NeverTrump movement. MSNBC is crawling with Republican talking heads; the op-ed pages of major newspapers regularly allow them to address Democrats in the second person. By adopting the pose that Donald Trump is an aberration, a violation of their ideals, rather than a fairly orthodox Republican president carrying out the party’s agenda of plutocracy and white supremacy more belligerently than his predecessors, the most cunning Republicans have won the trust of Democrats desperate to defeat him.

What follows is an inventory of the loudest among them. Democrats: do not listen to these Republicans. They mean to drown you. It is their nature.

Bill Kristol

It’s a family affair for Bill Kistrol, the one-time New York Times op-ed columnist whose father, Irving Kristol, was the architect of neoconservatism. The younger Kristol has far fewer intellectual credentials, in spite of having founded a couple magazines — par for the course when you’re a professional neocon. He worked for the Reagan and first Bush administrations, and was one of the most vocal supporters of the younger Bush’s war in Iraq. His highbrow intellectual heritage makes it no wonder he finds Trump distasteful, in spite of being fairly indistinguishable from him politically, and in spite of his personal responsibility for the growth of the American far right. For his surface-level objection to Trump, he is rewarded with constant MSNBC appearances and adulation from #Resistance Twitter.

Erick Erickson

Unlike Kristol, Erickson is a more modern kind of demagogue: a talk show host and blogger. He is also an idiot, having once expressed his opinion of the New York Times by posting a photo of a bullet-ridden issue he had literally shot a hole through. In 2016, he personally convened a meeting of conservatives that launched the “Never Trump” movement, a position he was all too happy to abandon when it finally sunk in that it meant he might have to side with Democrats. In 2016, he wrote a post on his vanity website The Resurgent called “I Will Not Vote for Donald Trump, Ever.” Last year, he wrote one called "I Support the President." Guess who he's voting for this year?

David Frum

Frum is a former speechwriter for George Bush, and is best known for coining the phrase “Axis of Evil.” As one of the most influential advocates of the Bush Doctrine, he deserves a lifetime of exile at best. Instead, he is fêted by some as a man of great conscience, for his objections to the Trump presidency. It is shameful that he should feel comfortable showing his face in public, and yet it appears all over cable news. Frum has recently dedicated himself to dictating how Democrats should approach their primary, rather hysterically describing Sen. Bernie Sanders as “a Marxist of the old school of dialectical materialism, from the land that time forgot.”

Jennifer Rubin

Rubin, a far-right columnist at the Washington Post, likes to evoke red-menace vibes that go back multiple generations. She too has dedicated herself to pleading with Democrats that they be harsher on Sanders, and lectures the party with a distinctly schoolmarmish tone. “Those in the Never Trump camp who lived through the horror of a demagogic radical taking over their party (now my ex-party) have been speaking up, frantically trying to warn Democrats,” she said in a recent column. Nice try, Jennifer! You’re a Republican.

Bret Stephens

Stephens is a man (or a bug) who perhaps needs no introduction, but for the record he is one of the worst Times columnists in the paper’s history. Let’s not dwell on him, because there is not much to say: he is a moron of the first order, devoid of conscience. He has spent three years calling himself a “NeverTrumper,” before admitting this year that he will probably not vote for his opponent.

Ana Navarro

Navarro is a Republican strategist who worked with former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush and the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, and became famous for (rightly) insisting on using the word “pussy” on national television in quoting Trump. Her father was literally a member of the Contras, the Nicaraguan death squad that opposed the Sandinista government with the support of the Reagan administration. She seems proud of that, which one should probably take into account when considering her advice.

Megan McArdle

An undeserving beneficiary of the blogger-to-pundit pipeline, McArdle is a libertarian who used to blog as an Ayn Rand character and now writes for Bloomberg. She loves Italian food and is against fire safety.

Meghan McCain

As she is fond of reminding you, Meghan McCain is John McCain’s daughter. She parlayed that filial credential into a position on the panel of The View, an ideal outlet for her uniformed prattle. She has benefited from her father’s persona as the “maverick,” honorable Republican, a man who was supposedly guided by principled conviction and yet still chose Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate.

Rick Wilson

Rick Wilson is a Republican consultant responsible for developing TV commercials for Republican candidates. His literal job is helping Republicans win elections.

Max Boot

Ironically best-known for his headwear — a rakishly tilted fedora — Boot is a special flavor of conservative. He seems motivated almost entirely by imperial bloodlust rather than a general inclination toward traditionalism or laissez-faire economic philosophy. In spite of his love of aggression, Boot has been so dismayed by Trump’s ungentlemanly demeanor he has gone as far as to start using liberal terminology like “white privilege,” eventually making a self-important pronouncement of his departure from the right. Fortunately for him, contemporary liberalism is mostly accommodating to military adventurism, and last time around, he found an ideal candidate in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. These days, he seems to be getting concerned that a potential leftward shift of the Democratic party might cause a worldwide reduction in civilian casualties.

Steve Schmidt

As John McCain’s campaign manager, Schmidt is personally responsible for the national fame of Palin, his choice for McCain’s running mate. Arguably, Palin and the contemporaneous blossoming of the Tea Party are the most consequential precedents to the rise of Trump. Schmidt now goes on MSNBC nearly every day advising on how to resist the president, which is something like asking Joe Camel for advice on how to quit smoking. Democrats: you do not have to listen.